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Thread: What to do AFTER a Wal-Mart moves in

  1. #1

    What to do AFTER a Wal-Mart moves in

    There are many threads that I have seen that mention what to do to stop Wal-Marts from moving in, or where to put the big-box stores. However, I am looking for information on how smaller cities can adjust to a new Walmart after it arrives. There are many sectors of a comprehensive plan that can be impacted by the construction of a Wal-Mart and I am looking to see how others have adjusted. Thanks.

    Moderator note:
    (NHPlanner) Thread title edited. Please, no silly or teaser titles outside of the FAC.
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 23 Dec 2005 at 10:09 AM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    Schedule your downtown for demolition?

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jordanb
    Schedule your downtown for demolition?
    Moderator note:
    Please kep sarcasm inside the FAC. This forum is not the place for the [albeit humorous] retorts.

    -Chet

  4. #4
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Make sure you have adequete infrastructure to move traffic in and out, assess needs for lengthening bus routes or center turn lanes into the property.

    Be pro active about looking for businesses as many mom and pops will not be able to compete and will close up shop. Look for segments not served by Wal Mart, or good stable chains that can compete with Wal Mart on price.

    Stock the pantries of your food kitchens and distribution programs, many will be put out of work, or have their wages cut.

    Once a Wal Mart opens all sorts of other stores will be attracted to your city. Make sure your planning department and police and fire are adequetely staffed to deal with all the new development. Try to steer as much of these new stores to existing structures as possible. No sense in building new free standing buildings if you can give the company suitable alternatives.

  5. #5
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    Sorry, Chet; I thought jordanb's quote was appropriate. Small-town downtowns do not make it after Wal-Mart moves in. The only success stories I have seen are in communities where Wal-Mart has made adjustments before construction, like context-sensitive design or infill.

    I agree with everything that my fellow-Detroiter said. If anyone reconciles their new Wal-Mart with their existing local economy, please leave a post here so we can all learn how.

    A few ideas though (mabye repeating the previous post): If its local business that you're worried about, help your local businesses become something that Wal-Mart is not. Also, create design standards for the accessory business that follow a Wal-Mart. There is no question that "blue communities" have to be ready for change.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    Well, I guess it really depends on what type of town you live in. I work for a quaint, well-planned, affluent city of 60,000 +/- citizens. We have had a Wal Mart on the far end of the city for several years. I don't think that the downtown merchants are necessarily having difficulty due to Wal Mart in particular. I think that it is more complex than that.

    In our situation, we do not have a 'historic' downtown. But luckily, we have had a downtown plan since the 1970s, that they have built to fairly closely. So now, we do have a mixed use, medium density downtown that is pedestrian friendly. But it is still flailing because up until recently all the focus was in the suburban areas of the city. This has turned around in recent years, and infill higher density residential projects are under development.

    I think if you want to try to preserve your downtown, give the businesses people to sell their services to. Foster business development (or redevelopment) downtown, as well as residential infill and mixed uses, and downtown becomes more lively. Farmers markets held in downtown areas also bring people into the CBD on the weekends. My city has the largest Farmers Market in Western Canada. Some businesses love it, others complain about lack of parking for 'their' customers.

    Speaking of downtown businesses, it helps to have a strong downtown business association that will do some of their own research, planning and marketing. In my own town, I think we are making steps to help support our downtown. But they could be doing a lot more if the city had a stronger business assocation and chamber of commerce.

    I think really strong downtowns will not be that hurt by Wal Mart coming to town. It's really up to the city to take other steps that will make a more balanced community in general. Sorry if this is vague... I've got my mind on holiday beverages, and friends visiting tomorrow night. Maybe I'll give this a go again in the niew year.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian FueledByRamen's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jordanb
    Schedule your downtown for demolition?
    A smart fellow once said "planning is not content to accept any of the factors in city growth as outside human foresight and control."

  8. #8
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    (I'm doing my best to avoid letting my bias against Walmart affect this post)

    Recovering from Walmart all depends on what your goals are.

    Are you worried that your downtown is going to turn ghost town ala SouthPark with Butters wandering aimlessly through the street? Redevelop, Redevelop, Redevelop!!! It's better if you've already started this process before WallyWorld, but you're not too far gone. Downtown businesses will survive and even thrive if you give them customers. Push for mixed-use infill in the downtown, particularly residential. Invest in downtown infrastructure and give those businesses what they want. Have they been complaining that downtown looks rundown? Maybe now is the time for that streetscape project that's been on the shelf for five years. Replace torn up sidewalks and install them where they are missing. Keep your civic events downtown; the more you focus on maintaining downtown as the physical and emotional center of your city, the more likely it is to survive. I've never seen a thriving downtown affected by Walmart, but I have seen Walmart serve as the final blow to a already weak and neglected downtown. If the downtown dies, it is the fault of the City, not Walmart.

    Are you sweating the Mom & Pop stores? Perhaps you could look into small business assistance and maybe bring someone in to discuss with these Mom & Pops how they can adapt their business. For example, a local hardware store is completely revamping itself in preparation for a Home Depot about to open. Rather than go head-to-head, he is joining a coop of buyers and switching to a more upscale level of products. His lighting and plumbing fixture selection will be FAR larger than that of the Home Depot.

    Get ready for the Walmart coattail riders. These are the companies that are too lazy to do their own location analysis, so they let Walmart do it for them and simply follow. Certain businesses always seem to pop-up next to a Walmart, especially Tractor Supply (an absolutely charming company to deal with, BTW, so get ready ). A lot of these will be the "baby boxes" in the 10,000-20,000 sf range as well as similar sized retail centers. Also, do you have a Target? If not, you will and probably sooner than you think, especially if your town is more upper-middle class. Also, get ready for a bunch of restaurants, both fast food and sit-down. You can also expect a few more banks to pop up.

    I hope you had the regs to force Walmart to upgrade public facilities like nearby roads and intersections. If not, I'm sure by now you are coming to grips with the traffic reality of one of these big boxes.

    Somebody else mentioned food banks. Get in contact with the store manager. Most store managers will donate canned food and will even pitch in around the holidays to sponsor a holiday meal for those in poverty. My guess is they could use some good PR if they just openned, so don't blow an opportunity. If you have a animal humane society, you can probably get WM to donate slightly damages bags of dog and cat food. the humane society where I live hasn't bought food in two years using this method.

    I am very curious about DetroitPlanner's comment about Walmart causing unemployment and wage cuts. When Walmart came to my TOWN NEXT DOOR, the average hourly wage for the City went up nearly a dollar and unemployment dropped. That could just be luck though.

    jordanB, that was one of the most well-placed smart-ass comments I've ever seen on this board! (Chet is right though )

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  9. #9

    Thanks

    I am with a consulting firm and we are looking to help cities as small as 7k persons to adjust to the incoming Wal-Marts. Great input, so far I've heard these points:
    • Create/Strengthen the downtown business association
    • Promote infill development - more downtown residents more business use downtown
    • Adjust transportation for increased traffic around site
    • Adjust services to address new development or problems
    • Farmer's Markets or events to attract people downtown occationally
    • Look for niches that Walmart doesn't serve
    Know of any websites that discuss this issue further? Thanks for the input, all of it. I'm not ready to start the D-9 plan with anyone (Bulldoze downtown), but I've seen a Wal-Mart take out a CBD in my old town and now I am racking my brain to try to help others from that happening....ok, just to slow it.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    In 2 small communities I have worked in and near, walmart has actually improved services in the downtowns. That being said, there are definite infrastructure and design issues they will bring to town.

    1) Storm water management. They have design standards small places can't serve. So watch out how they deal with on site SMW ponds or how they are going to hook into your services, there may not be capacity.

    2) traffic and road engineering. get ready for widenings, laybys and signalized intersections, where stop signs and yields/merges used to work.

    3) Othe rbig boxes. walmart is a threshold store, like mcdonalds. Once they are in town, other retailers will be willing to invest as the place has rrived. therefore it is necessary to make sure you are ready for items 1 and 2 to reoccur.

    4) Planning, while you'll have to bend to bring them in, don't sell the farm as those that follow will expect simialr deals. make them pay for infrastructure upgrades their development requires and work to develop standards that are applicable for other uses.

    Remember, there is a reason they can sell underwear for 89 cents. They hire low level planners and engineers to do their work. watch them like hawks and while they will expect you to do the majority of teh work, don't let them do that to you.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  11. #11
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    I read an article once that discussed a small town in Wisconsin that was thriving on Wal Mart's limitations. I don't remember where I found that as it was a couple of years ago. A tire repair store and a bicycle shop were two examples. They also listed that the restaraunts and gas stations (this was before walmart gas) were doing great. More people in town means more dollars. The exisiting buisneses do have to change. Many times, rather than change, they just give up.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Breed's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by bsuplanguy
    Sorry, Chet; I thought jordanb's quote was appropriate. Small-town downtowns do not make it after Wal-Mart moves in. The only success stories I have seen are in communities where Wal-Mart has made adjustments before construction, like context-sensitive design or infill.
    That's not true. A small town can survive in a post-Wal-mart economy. The bottom line is that small downtown retailers will need to think ahead. Competing with Wal-mart on price is likely going to fail. Other routes are necessary. There are things that Wal-mart does poorly or doesn't do at all. Businesses need to focus on these things. Although it may seem like it, Wal-mart doesn't sell everything.

    This is actually a great opportunity to get downtown-type business owners involved in planning. Help them recognize what they will need to do to not only survive, but to get stronger economically.
    Every time I look at a Yankees hat I see a swastika tilted just a little off kilter.
    Bill "Spaceman" Lee

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Breed
    That's not true. A small town can survive in a post-Wal-mart economy. The bottom line is that small downtown retailers will need to think ahead. Competing with Wal-mart on price is likely going to fail. Other routes are necessary. There are things that Wal-mart does poorly or doesn't do at all. Businesses need to focus on these things. Although it may seem like it, Wal-mart doesn't sell everything.

    This is actually a great opportunity to get downtown-type business owners involved in planning. Help them recognize what they will need to do to not only survive, but to get stronger economically.
    My understanding is that small businesses generally cannot ever compete successfully on price, Wal-mart or not. They do best when they develop a niche market that they are uniquely qualified to serve and do that better than anyone else so that folks are willing to pay the price because it's worth it. Selling "everything" or doing "everything" is just not something a small business is equipped to do. And it seems to me that appropriate support from the local chamber of commerce (et al) to help businesses focus more effectively on their particular niche and define it more carefully could make a huge difference. Lots of small businesses try to be whatever any client wants. Granted, you can't be too picky -- you've gotta eat -- but trying to be anything anyone wants is usually a recipe for failure -- again, Walmart or no Walmart. Learning what niche one is best equipped to serve can be a journey but, sooner or later, it's best to narrow one's focus if one wants to keep the business small. Expanding the focus typically means the business must expand dramatically in order to have any hope of success -- and that is often antithetical to the reasons why a person went into business for themselves to begin with.

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